“Philip.” Dinah knocked on the door, keeping her voice to a whisper in case her aunt or uncle heard. “Phil, it’s me – Dinah.”
She heard the creak of the uneven floorboard beside the door, and then Philip said from the other side. “What is it? You’ll get into trouble if Aunt Polly catches you.”
“I’ve sneaked some supper up for you,” Dinah said, leaning against her side of the door in response. “I say, Philip, do hurry up and open this door!”
She heard him moving away, and saw the handle moving.
“No wait,” she said, suddenly. “Make sure that horrible thing isn’t anywhere near me!”
There was a pause, and then: “Squeak isn’t horrible. I don’t know why you’re afraid of her.” Then he opened the door and poked his head out. “Look, this is awfully good of you, Dinah, but Aunt Polly did say –”
“I know,” said Dinah, “but she and Uncle would never have noticed the earwigs if hadn’t yelled, so I saved you this.”
Philip opened the door wider, and Dinah slipped inside, and handed over the rather muddled remnants of her supper, wrapped in a clean handkerchief. He pounced on the food. “How did you manage it?”
“I offered to do the dishes,” said Dinah. “Aunt Polly was only too glad to let me, so I scrounged that.” She’d taken more than she needed and eaten less than she would usually have done, so she’d been able to bring him everything left on her plate. She didn’t know why Philip had to carry beastly things like earwigs and bats about with him, but she was the one who’d given him away this time, so it was only fair.
Philip munched away happily. “Thanks, Dinah. You are a good sort – and awfully straight for a girl.”
“Girls are,” said Dinah, not much impressed by the compliment, uncharacteristic as it was. “Most of the girls at school are, anyway. Don’t be a pig, Philip!”
“That dreadful girl who stayed in Hill Cottage last year wasn’t,” said Philip. “Golly, she made a fuss about everything, didn’t she? I mean, even you didn’t mind Spikes – and you wouldn’t go running to a grown up to complain, even if you did.”
Dinah giggled at the memory. The baby hedgehog definitely hadn’t been the worst of Philip’s pets – much better than the awful bat he had found these hols, she thought. Then she remembered something else and pulled out a folded piece of paper from her pocket. “I had a letter from Mother this morning. I was going to tell you. There’s not really any news, though. It’s mostly the same as yours.”
Philip took it from her and put it in his pocket for later, and then they stayed where they were, sitting side by side on the floor by the door sharing an unspoken fellowship against the misery. It was rotten, the way everything was just now, Dinah thought.
“Thanks,” said Philip.
Dinah got up, ready to go, before the two of them got into any more trouble. “Just keep all those horrid insects away from me!”
“They’re not horrid. I’m training them.”
“Well,” said Dinah, “you’d better train them to keep out of my way, or I shall pull your hair out! And next time I won’t save you any supper, either!”
Philip only grinned. “You’d better go, hadn’t you?”